Last year on World No Tobacco Day (May 31), the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a campaign which aims to support 100 million people worldwide to join the movement and commit to quit tobacco use. WHO has come up with 100 reasons to stop tobacco use, including those that impact one's life and people around them.
Studies have shown those who smoke have an increased risk of complications from COVID-19. This is just one reason to stop smoking. Given the ongoing pandemic, this is as good a time as any to re-think smoking or other forms of tobacco use and cut down or quit.
What would motivate you to take that first step? What will you start doing when you stop smoking or using tobacco?
For VCH staff member Wendy Kuramoto that motivation was her children. Below, Wendy shares her journey towards tobacco-free living to inspire those ready to join the movement to take back their right to health and healthy living.
My name is Wendy Kuramoto and I work at VCH. I am sharing my journey because I would like to help someone who may be thinking about quitting smoking.
I have smoked for 25 years, on average one pack a day. I tried to quit many times and was able to successfully quit for 10 years when I wanted to have children. I started again when my marriage ended, and I had been unable to quit since then, trying every way to quit you can imagine. Nothing stuck because I did not really want to stop.
My mother has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). She has a Stage 3 (or 4) diagnosis. As one of her primary caregivers, I have watched her turn blue from being unable to take in oxygen as a direct result of smoking cigarettes for 40 years. The COVID pandemic has terrified me on her behalf as she already has serious breathing issues, and for her to catch even a mild case of COVID would be terminal for her.
I never want my children to have to watch me fight to breathe.
In my journey to quitting smoking, I made a connection and commitment to want to quit by creating a narrative in my mind that I was a non-smoker. I started to visualize myself choosing to NOT buy cigarettes. I started thinking about smoking in a completely different way. Every time I had a cigarette, I reminded myself that it was ridiculous to be smoking because I am a non-smoker. I imagined what I would be doing if I was not smoking instead of needing to find money, my smokes and lighter, a place to smoke (rain or shine), a time to smoke, etc.
I prepared to quit smoking by getting a Champix prescription from my doctor and filled it. I bought two packs of cigarettes and smoked them over a Saturday and Sunday. Then, I took the Champix for three weeks as directed on the package. That stopped the physical cravings right off the bat and allowed my new belief that I was a non-smoker to settle in.
Then, I changed my patterns so that my day-to-day life started to match my commitment (in my mind and actions) of being a non-smoker. The most positive thing I noticed when I stopped smoking was I could breathe easily. I stopped coughing all the time. I could taste food again.
I have been smoke-free more than a year now and I feel proud of myself.
Sometimes, I miss the smell of the cigarette and the comfort of the lighter in my hand. However when the thought arises, I remind myself it is ok to miss them, but as a non-smoker, I do not need them. Then, I distract myself with something else.
If I were to talk to a youth who is currently smoking and/or vaping, I would tell them, “Smoking will take all your money and cause wrinkles, unhealthy teeth/gums and mouth. It doesn't seem like a big deal now, but in the long run, it will take a lot from you without giving you much of anything in return."
If you are thinking about quitting or maybe you are not quite ready to quit, I encourage you to keep thinking about quitting. This is your journey, and when you are ready, there are various resources and support to help you along the way. Commit to quit. You WILL get there.
- VGH Smoking Cessation Clinic (for reducing or stopping smoking or vaping) – Offers one-on-one (phone or virtual) support by a doctor or nurse trained in harm reduction and cessation. Call 604-875-4800 (press “2").
- QuitNow (for reducing or stopping smoking or vaping) – Online support (www.quitnow.ca), phone (1-877-455-2233) or text QUITNOW to 654321.
- BC Smoking Cessation Program (for reducing or stopping smoking) – for B.C. residents to obtain free nicotine replacement therapy products (i.e. nicotine patch, gum or lozenge), or possibly subsidized stop smoking medications. Ask your pharmacist about the BC Smoking Cessation Program.